RTF and Afghan National Army and National Police

RTF and Afghan National Army and National Police


A key stated goal of the Afghanistan deployment for the Australian government is the training of Afghan National Amy and Afghan National Police. The primary ADF training role is carried out by the Mentoring Task Force (MTF) based at Tarin Kowt and related Forward Operating bases.

The current MTF in operation is:
MTF-1 [Commanding Officer – Liutenant Colonel Jason Blain], 14 February 2010

Government sources

Taliban leaders targeted in Afghan led operation, Media Release MSPA 127/10, Department of Defence, 23 April 2010

On Wednesday (21 April, 2010), local Afghans in the Gizab region of Oruzgan province took part in an apparent uprising against Taliban insurgents operating in their community.

In response to the local action, the Australian Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) and its Afghan partner unit, the Provincial Police Reserve deployed to the area. On arrival, the forces were engaged by insurgents with small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades. The Australian and Afghan force reacted and used close air support to effectively neutralise the insurgent attack. The combined Afghan/Australian force remains in the location.

“This recent action also shows that there is very good partnering and a high degree of cooperation with the Afghan National Security Forces in Oruzgan province,” Lieutenant General Evans said.

Ministerial Statement on Afghanistan, Senator the Hon John Faulkner, MIN100318/10, Department of Defence, 18 March 2010

I am also pleased to announce that Australia is able to fulfil a request by ISAF to provide ten personnel from within our embedded staff in Afghanistan to develop a training concept for Afghanistan’s Combat Arms Artillery School.  This school will provide artillery training for the whole of the Afghan National Army, and Australia will play an integral role in its establishment. The Australian team will work to develop a training needs analysis and operating concept for the Artillery School located in Kandahar. This will contribute to a broader NATO effort to enhance training across the spectrum of Afghan National Army training requirements. 

Two bomb makers captured in Afghan-led SOTG Operation, Media Release MSPA 081/10, Department of Defence, 25 March 2010

Two Taliban bomb makers have been captured and their supply of Improvised Explosive Device components destroyed in a partnered Afghan National Security Force and Australian Special Operations Task Group operation earlier this month. The insurgents were detained in mid-March during a complex operation in the Langhar region of southern Oruzgan Province.

Major General Cantwell said … “We have been working closely with the Oruzgan Provincial Police Reserve Company for some time now … our partnered approach is successful.”

Australia ‘playing its part’ in Afghan surge, ABC News, 18 March 2010

He says the focus is now turning to the Taliban insurgency around Kandahar. “I expect Australian forces will again be involved in supporting General McChrystal’s strategy,” he said. “Australia will play its part, which could again see ADF elements and their ANA (Afghan National Army) partners supporting the fight.”

Baluchi Valley Patrol, Department of Defence, 1 February 2010

A recent patrol in the Baluchi Valley searched for caches and spent time interacting with the local population. Soldiers from the Second Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force have worked closely with the ANA to improve their skills since arriving in Oruzgan Province in 2009.

Hope in Oruzgan, Department of Defence, 22 January 2010

Operation Pelatel Man’a involves the Oruzgan-based ANA 4th Brigade, MRTF-2, Dutch soldiers, and other International Security Assistsance Force (ISAF) partners. Platoon commander with the 2nd Infantry Kandak, Liutenant Zubair, said the operation has boosted his soldiers’ confidence, reinforcing the belief that they can defeat the insurgency. One of the Australian mentors, Sergeant Bradley Foster, said there are a lot of small achievements that are hard to measure at times, however, they all add up to building capability for the ANA.

Oruzgan convoy a success, Department of Defence, 20 January 2010

Australian and Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers have completed a critical resupply mission in Afghanistan’s Oruzgan Province. Under Operation Tor Ghar II, the resupply convoy travelled from Tarin Kowt to Kandahar, allowing the 4th ANA Brigade to sustain operations in the region. Senior mentor and convoy commander Major Gordon Wing said the ANA had learnt lessons from similar operations.  

Op Slipper, Department of Defence, 12 January 2010

A major operation conducted by Australian and Afghan National Army (ANA) Forces has experienced success, uncovering a significant number of caches to the east of Tarin Kowt, Oruzgan Province, Southern Afghanistan. Twenty-three caches have been found since the operation began on the 1st of January. The contents included Improvised Explosive Device (IED) components, rocket propelled grenades, mortars, home-made explosive and thousands of rounds of small arms ammunition. MRTF-2 Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Hocking, said like the caches located in December, these latest finds are helping to save lives.

Question and Answer Session, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston,  Media Roundtable, MSPA 90721/09,  21 July 2009

First of all I’d say counter-insurgency – General Formica when I visited him on one of my recent visits told me that our OMLT was the benchmark of all OMLTs in Afghanistan. OK? That’s the first point I want to put on the record. In terms of the way we work with our Kandak, a decision has been made by the Afghan Government, I guess in consultation with the coalition, that 1 Kandak Brigade will be raised in Oruzgan. So that’s where we are. We’re fully committed to doing the training. Now, at this stage, the Kandak is not ready to go on battalionable operations. It needs more work before it can be deployed into somewhere like Helmand. They’re doing good work in and around Oruzgan, but you know, it’s walk before you run. So depending on the level of capability, when it’s fully capable, it’s really up to the Afghan National Army where they might deploy. And say when we complete the training process and it needs to be that Kandak needs to be deployed somewhere else, well, so be it.

ANA Engineer training, Op Slipper Images, Department of Defence, 4 October 2007.

Images and video.

“The RTF conducts the only Afghan National Army (ANA) Engineer training in all of Afghanistan. The four week course is ran by soldiers from the 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment. They instruct the ANA in basic soldier skills, combat engineering and construction techniques. The training has enabled the ANA soldiers to successfully integrate into the RTF’s operations in Oruzgan Province.”

Australian Army Engineers Train Afghan Army, Live Leak, 5 October 2007,

Reconstruction Task Force, Operation Slipper, Department of Defence [10 May 2007]:

“The Reconstruction Task Force (RTF) is Australia’s contribution to the Netherlands-led Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Afghanistan’s Oruzgan Province. The RTF consists of around 380 personnel providing command, security, engineering and operational support capabilities. The RTF has a clearly defined role to work on reconstruction and improvement of provincial infrastructure (schools, hospitals, bridges, etc) and community-based projects to assist the Afghan Government achieve a stable and secure future for its people. The RTF also provides trade training to the local population and military engineering training to the Afghan National Army. This type of assistance is designed to benefit the people of Oruzgan Province well into the future and form the building blocks of a stable and prosperous community. The RTF is commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Harry Jarvie, from the Brisbane-based 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment.”

Marksmanship training for the Afghan National Army, Op Slipper Images, Department of Defence, 6 May 2007

“The RTF conducts training courses for the Afghan National Army Engineers as part of a coordinated effort to develop indigenous capacity. These courses include a mixture of structured and on the job training, encouraging further local support for RTF operations.”

Parliamentary sources

Topic: Afghanistan (Oruzgan) Governance, Answers to questions on notice from Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Additional estimates 2006-2007; February 2007, Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade

“Senator Evans asked:
In response to a Question on Notice (No.4969) the Government stated that there are no specific training targets for Afghan police and army and police in Oruzgan province.

(a)  What is the Government ís long term plan for Australia’s commitment to Oruzgan and what specific benchmarks is it using to gauge its success?

(b)  What governance measures is Australia undertaking in Oruzgan to build the capacity of the local Government and justice systems?


“(a)  The specific benchmarks Australia and the international community use to gauge the success its commitment in Afghanistan are set out in the Afghanistan Compact, agreed to at the London Conference of January 2006.

“(b)  Australia is primarily involved in Oruzgan through our Reconstruction Task Force (RTF). The RTF is contributing to capacity building at the local level in areas related to small-scale reconstruction activities in Oruzgan. To this end, a trades training school has been established by the RTF which is, for example, providing training in carpentry. In 2007, AusAID disbursed $1m through the World Bank Trust Fund to the National Solidarity Program, a local governance program which to date has supported communities to manage around 7,000 reconstruction development projects in all 34 provinces of Afghanistan. More
broadly, Italy is leading the international community ís efforts to improve the capacity of the justice sector in Afghanistan.”


Can Afghanistan help itself?, David Axe, The Diplomat, 25 March 2010

This confidence hasn’t come easy. NATO has devoted billions of dollars and countless man-hours in training and equipping Afghan Security Forces for results that haven’t been what could be described as consistent. Indeed, there were many missteps. An attempt in 2007 to recruit southern tribal militias as government paramilitaries faltered when NATO began to suspect the militiamen might abandon the government and return to their warlords. Two years later, NATO tried again to enlist militiamen, this time in the country’s mountainous, isolationist east. That effort is ongoing, and reviews have been mixed.

In fact, ‘mixed’ is also the best adjective to describe Afghan forces. Eight years into this, the latest Afghan war, Afghan forces break down into three tiers, according to US Army Maj. Bill Hampton. Hampton rates the Afghan army, which includes the commandos, as ‘good.’ Paramilitary forces, including Afghan border cops and others, are ‘okay.’ But the national police force is simply ‘corrupt.’ Indeed, in March, NATO Gen. Stan McChrystal said he wanted to disband the roughly 100,000-strong police force and just start over.

Meet the Afghan Army – Is it a figment of Washington’s imagination?, Ann Jones, Tom Dispatch, 20 September 2009

What is there to show for all this remarkably expensive training? Although in Washington they may talk about the 90,000 soldiers in the Afghan National Army, no one has reported actually seeing such an army anywhere in Afghanistan. When 4,000 U.S. Marines were sent into Helmand Province in July to take on the Taliban in what is considered one of its strongholds, accompanying them were only about 600 Afghan security forces, some of whom were police. Why, you might ask, didn’t the ANA, 90,000 strong after eight years of training and mentoring, handle Helmand on its own? No explanation has been offered. American and NATO officers often complain that Afghan army units are simply not ready to “operate independently,” but no one ever speaks to the simple question: Where are they?

2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – Afghanistan, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, UNHCR, 11 March 2010

Sexual abuse of boys by members of the ANP and the ANA was widely alleged but unconfirmed.

On patrol: Aussie know-how, Afghan know-who, Sally Sara, ABC News, 26 August 2009

On a nearby hill, Australian soldiers play messages on a loud speaker. The announcements praise local residents for taking part in the presidential election and label the Taliban as jackals for firing rockets in civilian areas on election day. Many people are too afraid to leave their compounds at night, because the Taliban are active in the area.

The Australian and Afghan troops cordon one house, to find a cache of weapons hidden in several walls.

Toppling the Taliban: a not-so-simple plan, Matt Brown, ABC News, 23 July 2009

Last year before the fighting really began to hot up, only half of the Afghan soldiers serving in Regional Command South, which takes in Uruzgan and the more volatile provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, signed up for another tour of duty. About 65 per cent of the officers serving there stayed on. In the circumstances, that was thought to be a relatively good result.

It will be a crucial decision – for Afghanistan and for the Australian exit strategy. Like the rest of the Afghan National Army, the force in Uruzgan is plagued by manpower shortages. Soldiers earn $110 a month, much more than the average Afghan, and that makes their low reenlistment rate a significant concern. And it is the local troops who are increasingly on the front line in this shifting battle, especially when it is time to raid the country’s ubiquitous mud-walled compounds and huts.

For these recruits the problem is not just the terror of facing death, but the onerous regimentation and the shock of serving alongside other ethnic groups. Most of them have never even had to submit to the daily discipline of a school classroom, let alone mix blood, sweat and tears with men from other tribes in the interests of a real national project. On top of that, about 10 per cent of the troops go absent without leave, or AWOL.

Unless the reenlistment rates and the AWOL rates improve, the Afghanistan mission will fail.

Those being mentored by the Australians in 2nd battalion, 4th brigade, 205 Hero Corps are not local Pashtuns, they are Tajiks from the north and their first language is usually Dari, not the Pashto whispered and shouted around the compounds they are leading Australian troops into. Many Afghan soldiers speak both but still they sound like outsiders to the locals and to an outsider, like me, that sounds like a problem.

Afghanistan: Is Australia really up to it?, Matt Brown, ABC News, 21 July 2009

“There is a lack of troop numbers in ANA as well as any potential local security forces in RC South,” Dr Marston said. “So if the fight appears to be heavily engaged in Helmand and Kandahar, and there is a demand for more ANA troops to be embedded with the Americans or the British, they may ask for a kandak to come down from Uruzgan.

“The question then arises: do the Australian mentors go with them? Maybe the chief of army and chief of the Defence Force are already discussing this, but these are questions that are being raised by others within British as well as American commands.”

But if they are called on to send mentors beyond Uruzgan the answer would probably be “no”.

It’s called a ‘red card’ – a limitation on what troops will do for a coalition and where they’ll go – and it’s the kind of thing that has plagued America’s relations with its allies in the past.

Frontline Afghanistan: Civilians are the real prize, Matt Brown, ABC News, 8 May 2009

The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, wants to build up a small army in Uruzgan – a brigade capable of running its own operations. That is 3,300 men – a massive undertaking – and the evidence shows this means the Australians will be committed there for at least three years, probably five, and maybe even 10.

Captain Agha is a 21-year veteran of the Afghan army. In contrast, Captain Fallon has been in the Australian Army for just six years. He has a great deal of respect for his Afghan colleagues, who still have a long way to go. “They’re more orderly in their conduct under fire. They are less likely to shoot each other, so their fire’s more controlled and separated”, Captain Fallon said. “They are actually looking for the enemy rather than just firing in the general direction because everyone else is firing.”

And until the balance shifts more profoundly in the military’s favour, it means the countryside belongs to the Taliban, as is the case outside Mirwais. The Australians bristle at Dutch complaints that they are too “kinetic”, which is military speak for saying they are too aggressive. In the meantime more than 100 helicopters are being sent over and some will soon be on hand to bolster the force in Uruzgan.

See also


Project coordinator: Richard Tanter
Additional research: Arabella Imhoff
Ronald Li
Updated: 28 April 2010